The coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the extent to which China has concealed the outbreak. The U.S. intelligence community concluded that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths was intentionally incomplete and that the numbers the government published are fake.
The Chinese government also insisted that transmission between humans was impossible, and the World Health Organization affirmed this statement.
With a deluge of information coming out of China and from the World Health Organization, much of which was later found to be dubious, the timeline of China’s lies and information suppression has become a morass. Here is a cheat sheet of the Chinese government’s lies and the information it suppressed that masked the scale of the coronavirus outbreak.
- The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced Dec. 31 that their investigation did not find “any obvious human-to-human transmission and no medical staff infection” of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization affirmed this investigation nearly two weeks later, tweeting that “preliminary investigation conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” Doctors in Wuhan, however, warned each other on Dec. 31 to wear protective clothing to avoid infection after several patients from the local market showed symptoms similar to SARS. Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist based in Wuhan, said that “it was such an obvious case of human-to-human transmission” after he was infected himself, according to the Wall Street Journal. He later died of the virus after he was arrested and forced to withdraw his warnings. A Jan. 2 study linked exposure of 27 of 41 infected patients to the market in Wuhan, indicating human-to-human transmission. Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo by Naohiko Hatta – Pool/Getty Images)
- Chinese whistleblowers and doctors were immediately silenced by the Chinese government for broadcasting their warnings about the scale of the coronavirus. Chinese law professor Xu Zhangrun posted a scathing review of the way President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party managed the virus. “They all blithely stood by as the crucial window of opportunity to deal with the outbreak of the infection snapped shut in their faces,” he wrote, according to Business Insider. “The cause of all of this lies with The Axlerod [that is, Xi Jinping] and the cabal that surrounds him,” he continued. The essay was immediately removed, and Xu was placed under house arrest and prohibited from using the internet. Along with Dr. Li, at least three citizen journalists disappeared or were arrested after sharing information about the outbreak on social media. (RELATED: REPORT: Chinese Censors Jumped In To Suppress Online Messages Warning About Coronavirus Spread)
- In the six days after Chinese officials secretly determined they were facing a pandemic from the novel coronavirus, the city of Wuhan hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people, and millions began traveling through for New Year celebrations, the Associated Press reported in April. It wasn’t until Jan. 20, the 7th day, that President Xi Jinping warned the public. When the government implemented lockdowns in Wuhan, five million people had already left the city. Hundreds of coronavirus patients were visiting hospitals across China in early January, and it wasn’t until Thailand confirmed a case Jan. 13 that test kits were distributed and health care workers were told to screen patients.
- The Chinese government said that President Xi Jinping met with WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Jan. 28, where it was agreed upon that the WHO would send international experts as soon as possible to work with Chinese counterparts to “safeguard regional and global health security.” The meeting also produced an agreement to share data, according to the Wall Street Journal. It wasn’t until Feb. 16 that the team of scientists was permitted to enter China. The WHO praised China for “setting a new standard for outbreak control” and for the country’s leaders’ “openness to sharing information” despite the suppression of information brought forward by doctors. As of April 23, American scientists are still being blocked from entering the country to study the coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Fox News appearance.
- China continues to report unrealistically low deaths from the coronavirus. China reported no new deaths on April 7 for the first time since the pandemic began, along with a decrease in new cases. U.S. officials warned a week prior that Chinese coronavirus tallies should not be trusted. Wuhan revised its official death toll upward by nearly 50%, adding 1,290 fatalities to the previously reported 2,579 April 17, further raising questions about the accuracy of their reported death tallies. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that “there has never been any concealment, and we’ll never allow any concealment,” according to Al Jazeera. Wuhan’s coronavirus taskforce attributed the uptick to a lack of medical resources at the beginning of the outbreak, as well as late and missed reporting at the peak of the outbreak. Both the U.K. and France have remarked that the numbers China was reporting are untrustworthy, and French President Emmanuel Macron said that it was “naive” to believe China handled the pandemic so well. “So many medics were sent to Wuhan and you see the horrible footage coming out of the city, and now you’re telling me there were only 2,000-ish deaths? It can’t be!” a Chengdu resident, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions, said according to Al Jazeera.